Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail Network Roundtable & Heritage Tourism Workshop

October 17 and 18 at Madigan's Waterfront in Historic Occoquan, Virginia
October 17:  Trail Network

October 18: Heritage Tourism & the Trail Network

Workshop Highlights

The National Park Service and theNorthern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) co-sponsored a Potomac HeritageNational Scenic Trail Roundtable and workshop at Madigan's Waterfront in Occoquan, Virginia, October 17and 18,2012.  Participants included peopleinvolved with the Trail in Maryland, the District of Columbia, andVirginia.  Discussion focused on Trailnetwork completion, way finding, interpretation,  promotion, and tourism.

The workshop included opportunities toexperience portions of the Trail network  on land and on the water, including a hike withinLaurel Hill Park,  a water tour of theOccoquan and Potomac, and a tour of Mason Neck.  To download a pdf summary of highlights and participants, please click here.

Recent Accomplishments (Listed South to North)
The following accomplishments were highlighted.  
  • Chesapeake Heritage Program has been launched with watermen on Northern Neck  http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/educ/coastal_towns.htm
  • Dahlgren Trail has been recognized as a connecting trail in the Caledon Master Plan, suggesting a long-term management solution.  Caledon, in King George County, Virginia, is now a State Park! http://www.stateparks.com/caledon_state_park_in_virginia.html
  • George Washington Birthplace National Monumentrestored pedestrian bridge includes an area for kayak and canoe landing.  
  • Leesylvania State Park Trail segment is complete and staff have been receiving positive feedback from trail users (Karen Lambrey).  
  • Occoquan Water Trail is complete and receiving increased use since last year (John Houser).
  • Slaughterhouse interpretation now provided for Laurel Hill Park.
  • Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, a 20-mile multi-use trail on both sides of the river serves as a backbone for connecting communities to PHNST and regional trail systems under development; ribbon cutting held.  (Alex Romero)
  • C & O Towpath now complete, with Towpath at Big Slackwater now re-opened  visitors do not have to detour on roads; ribbon-cutting held.  (Lynn Wigfield)
  • NPS Trail funds were used to complete an estimate of the cost to design and construct the final mile of the Great Allegheny Passage

Ongoing Activities (South to North)
The workshop covered a number of projects in process related to trail planning, completion and interpretation:  
  • George Washington Regional Commission revising bicycle and pedestrian component of regional plan & referencing the PHNST.  
  • Prince William has addressed all gap segments identified in the corridor analysis; some were visited on the afternoon field trip. (Mike Depue)
  • BLM-NPS-FHWA-USFWS Mason Neck Gateway Kiosk at Meadowood is funded (w/Transportation Enhancement and NPS Trail Operations funds). 
  • Dougue Creek Bridge is part of Fairfax CIP and listed as a project in the next County bond issue. 
  • Fairfax Co Park Authority is working on some proto-type signs for Laurel Hill Park/PHNST segment (Liz Cronauer). Participants noted that the Barrel Bridge was a highlight of the Laurel Hill Park hike, and that the Prison grounds offer an opportunity for a great tour.
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Chesapeake Canal NHP waterfront plan for Georgetown area boathouses. Arlington interested in working with NPS on Arlington boathouse opportunity (Courtney Cacatian, Arlington Convention & Visitor Bureau)
  • Whites Ford, Phase 1 is underway which will provide water access for hand-carry boats and trail segment adjacent to river (Kate Rudacille)
  • Eastern Continental Divide Loop Trail moving forward.
  • VDOT has been actively working on several projects with local jurisdictions (Doug Miller)
  • Potomac Heritage Trail Association (PHTA) has been busy with trail maintenance activities, but new trail construction has slowed down/waiting on easements to be secured to develop new trail segments (Glenn Gillis)
  • Student Conservation Association involvement in the Trail has been extensive and interns and trails crews continue to assist NPS Trail Office and Trail managers;  SCA Vice President Flip Haygood encouraged workshop participants to continue to use SCA resource. 

Tourism, Wayfinding, and Promotion
The workshop included experts on cultural and trail-related heritage tourism: Anne Marie Maher, President, Discover Prince William & Manassas; and Kristin Lamoureux, Ph.D., Director, International Institute for Tourism Studies, George Washington University.  Deanna Beacham, an expert on the interpretation of American Indian history and culture, and Larry Stipek, a long time trail user and GIS manager from Loudoun County, provided overviews of the Trail’s rich cultural and tourism opportunities.  The boat trip and historical interpretation from the water is available from Miss Rivershore, which operates as a vendor from Occoquan, Leesylvania State Park, and Fountainhead Regional Park.  Belmont Bay has been developed in conjunction with trails.  Discussion also covered:
  • Bicycling routes represent a highlight of many national and international trips
  • Many different groups involved in the Trail network, and a diversity of uses and users.
  • Localities and states need to capitalize on the Trail network beyond local priorities.
  • American Hiking Society offers another resource for the trail system .
  • Southern Maryland Tourism Consortium is working with Religious Freedom Byway and PHNST on interpretation and way finding. The Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium & NPS beginning joint interpretive plan for Religious Freedom Scenic Byway & PHNST in Charles and St. Mary’s counties (Jennifer Pitt).
  • Potomac Heritage Explorer(www.potomacheritage.net) has been a good tool for tourism stakeholders to connect with the Trail.
  • American Indian interpretation requires special approaches, particularly with interactive interpretation.  Deanna Beecham provided extensive guidance, including information on interpretation, a writer's guide, and other resources.
  • Maryland and Pennsylvania are benefitting from the PHNST, but lack of river crossing and intermittent segments are a barrier to tourism.  
  • Northern Virginia offers a special opportunity as it hosts two major airports and direct metro and rail access to bike and pedestrian routes connecting to and along the regional trails.

  • Develop a PowerPoint slide show to show the extent of the PHNST, as well as development of the network over time 
  • Expand route marking and graphic identity to improve wayfinding and promotion of the network as a whole
  • Secure more of the Trail corridor with conservation or trail easements
  • Publish downloadable cue sheets for trail (especially amenities, etc.)
  • Seize opportunities to promote Trail experiences to visitors from other countries
  • Work with visitors bureaus to promote (and complete) the Trail
  • Press release-media outreach
  • Coordinate interpretation throughout the Trail network
  • Capitalize on the Trail network
  • Promote local trails, byways, gateways and parks through local businesses dependent on these programs.

For More Information
For More Information: Contact Debbie Spiliotopoulos NVRC Senior Environmental Planner, 703-642-4631 and Don Briggs, NPS POHE Superintendent, 304-535-4016.